MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Two years ago, I headed north to find an entire Christmas village twinkling on the shores of Lake Superior.
And as Mike Waldren told me on Twitter, it was 100 percent worth the drive.
“There’s a little competition in everybody and mine just happened to be in Christmas Lights that got out of control,” said Nathan Bentley, the man behind the Bentleyville Tour of Lights.
This all started at his home in Esko, Minn., more than 10 years ago, and people fell in love with it right away.
“20,000 to 25,000 people came to my house the first year that we were doing it,” he said. “The second year, we were in the 40,000 people range. They neighbors got very upset.”
In 2008, the mayor of Duluth asked Bentley to bring Bentleyville to the city’s Bayfront Festival Park.
Now, there’s nearly 3 million lights blanketing seven acres on the shore of Lake Superior.
“We have a $300,000 budget,” Bentley said. “We’ve actually turned my light show into a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and we raise food and toys for the Salvation Army.”
They do all that without charging for admission. Moreover, there’s free popcorn, coffee, hot chocolate, cookies, and marshmallows to be found throughout the park.
“It’s watching the faces, seeing people happier than heck and maybe bringing people back in time a little bit to when Christmas and the world was a little bit simpler,” Bentley said.
You can find walk-through hours for Bentleyville Tour of Lights here.